Volunteers are an important part of many nonprofits, and they often go unrecognized. This can lead to high rates of volunteer turnover and can be a drain on your organization’s resources.
How do you avoid this? It’s simple! You need to make it a practice to thank your volunteers for their incredible work for your nonprofit.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to craft a compelling volunteer thank you!
Why it is Important To Thank Your Volunteers
Whatever your role is at your nonprofit, it’s safe to assume that you are almost always busy. So, why should you take time out of your hectic schedule to thank your volunteers?
It’s simple—showing appreciation for your volunteers regularly increases their satisfaction with the work they’re doing, which in turn increases retention rates. This will save you both human and financial resources in the long run because it will reduce turnover among your volunteers. Volunteer retention is important—many nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers to fulfill their mission and achieve their impact.
Plus, thanking your volunteers makes them feel valued and appreciated! It’s uplifting when their time and efforts are acknowledged and recognized by your organization!
Just like you thank a donor after a financial gift, you should thank your volunteers every time they donate their valuable time to your organization.
You might be wondering: where do I begin?
Don’t stress! Keep reading to learn 5 best practices for thanking your volunteers, as well as some useful and simple templates for writing your volunteer thank-you’s!
5 Best Practices for Thanking Your Volunteers
Thanking your volunteers doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be done correctly. Below, we’ve outlined 5 best practices for thanking your volunteers to help you make sure you do it right, every time.
1. Be timely
It’s important to acknowledge the work of your volunteers as it happens—not days, weeks, or months afterwards.
Best practice on thank-you note turnaround time ranges from 2-4 business days. The truth is: the sooner, the better.
This means that when you have volunteers working for your organization, you need to carve time out of your busy schedule to write them a thank you note within 2 (or, at maximum, 4) business days of their volunteer hours.
It doesn’t take very much time to write a thank you card, so no matter how busy you are, this should be something that you can squeeze in.
If you’re worried that you won’t have time, or that you might forget, make it easy on yourself! Keep a stack of thank you cards, envelopes, and stamps in your desk, in your work bag, and in your car. That way, no matter where you are, you can take a few minutes to jot down a note of thanks.
2. Be consistent
It’s important to set a standard with your volunteer thank you’s that everyone in your organization can uphold.
If you decide you want to set the standard of thanking volunteers within 2 business days of their working hours, then make sure that everyone else in your organization who will be thanking volunteers can uphold that timeline as well.
Consistency is key. Especially if you have a lot of repeat volunteers, or volunteers that work closely together in a large group, you want your thank-you practices to be consistent so that each volunteer is formally thanked within the same time frame as all other volunteers.
Why is consistency so important? Volunteers are donating their valuable time to your organization. If they are not regularly thanked for this contribution, they might feel unappreciated and undervalued, and may take their time elsewhere.
A lot of nonprofits put this standard in writing in their policy manuals, and it often aligns with their donor recognition policy as well. For example, if financial contributions are acknowledged within 2 business days, the same standard would be set for in-kind services such as volunteer hours as well.
This helps get everyone in the practice of acknowledging all contributions consistently.
3. Be personal and genuine
When writing volunteer thank-you’s, it’s important to not send the same pre-written, scripted note every time. In fact, don’t ever do this!
Take the time to personalize your thank-you’s to your volunteers. Address each letter using the volunteer’s name (instead of a generic title like “Dear Friend”), and thank them for the specific volunteer act that they recently completed.
It’s likely that if you are the one thanking your volunteers, you’ve spent time working with these folks. Hopefully, you’ve learned some things about them that you can use to personalize your acknowledgements so that they are unique to each volunteer.
This little bit of effort will go a long way in uplifting your volunteers and making them feel excited to return!
Here’s a great example of a personalized thank you:
4. Be mission-focused
It’s safe to say that most volunteers choose the organizations they give their time to because they feel connected to the organization’s mission. You should acknowledge this in your thank-you’s to volunteers!
It’s important to show the connection between their work and how it helps your organization fulfill its mission. This will make the volunteers feel valuable and productive, and it will keep them coming back over and over again!
Here’s an example of how you can do this:
5. Be creative!
Now: if you have a lot of repeat volunteers, it might feel really redundant to write them a thank you note week after week. We get it!
Luckily, there’s a solution—you can get creative!
There are a lot of ways you can thank volunteers outside of the traditional thank you card. Here are some simple examples to get you started:
- Make a phone call - If you have regular volunteers who support your organization on a consistent basis, pick up the phone! A personalized phone call is a great way to show gratitude for their service.
- Shoot a video - This is a popular way to communicate thanks to large groups of volunteers. The Carnegie Science Center made this amazing video thanking their volunteers for Volunteer Appreciation Week - check it out!
- Gifts - Handing out branded gear, like t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, water bottles, or coffee mugs is a great way to show appreciation to your volunteers. They’ll proudly wear your organization’s logo to show their commitment to your mission, and you will get some positive publicity as well!
- Naming Honors - For volunteers who go above and beyond, and have a long track record of supporting your organization, consider naming something that supports your organization in their honor. For example, you could name a playground, a scholarship program, a room or work space, or even a garden after a super special volunteer.
It’s important to remember that no matter how you choose to thank your volunteers, you should always follow the first four best practices in this article: be timely, be consistent, be genuine and personal, and be mission-focused!
3 Examples of Successful Volunteer Thank You Templates
If you feel stuck, don’t worry! Here are a few simple volunteer thank you templates to get you started.
Remember—these templates are just guides! You can edit or tweak them to fit the needs of your organization.
1. Formal thank you
2. Thank you to a new volunteer
3. Thank you for event/committee volunteer
Wrapping Up: How to Write a Thank You to Nonprofit Volunteers
Let’s recap: It’s incredibly important to thank your volunteers every single time they donate their time to your organization! Thanking volunteers makes them feel valued and encourages them to remain committed to your organization. For even more volunteer retention tips and tricks, check out our post on how to recruit and manage volunteers effectively for your nonprofit.
In this article, we outlined five best practices for writing thank you’s to your volunteers: be timely, be consistent, be genuine and personal, be mission-focused, and be creative! We also gave you three great samples of volunteer thank-you’s that you can edit and adapt for your own organization. Now you’re ready to start thanking your volunteers!